Entrusting our child to someone else is always difficult, and this can be a real problem for parents whose child needs special care. My baby has eczema, an inflammatory skin condition characterized by dryness, itchiness, and rashes; she’s had it since she was two weeks old. While I took care of her myself during her first 11 months, she was subsequently entrusted to full-day infant school and preschool when I returned to work.
I get a lot of parents of children with eczema asking me about the preschool my daughter attends and if the school specially caters to children suffering from eczema. My reply is no, there is no preschool that caters specially for children with eczema in Singapore.
These parents are concerned with many matters; major priorities include:
• Do the helpers in preschool know how to moisturize and shower a child with eczema?
• Will anyone notice if the child is scratching and stop her before the skin bleeds?
• Are there measures to ensure that foods that the child is allergic to will not be given to her (accidentally)?
From my experience, communication is very critical – and it’s not just issuing orders to be followed by the school, but empathizing that caring for a child with eczema is not a simple task (as parents themselves would surely know) while also taking care of a class with 10 other children who don’t deserve any less attention than the child with eczema.
With that in mind, here are my top five communication tips, the first part deals with communicating specifically on matters relating to eczema, and the second part deals with overall interaction with the teachers/ caregivers of our child.
Give simple and clear instructions, write them down
Don’t babble your worries to the teacher/caregiver, he or she is likely to have lots of worries of his/her own! If you cannot find a time to talk to the teacher after school hours, leave a short and simple note so that he or she can read it later and use it to communicate with other teachers/ helpers who also take care of your child.
The few basics
Preschool takes care of our child during the parents’ office hours, there is then no need to let the teacher know how to manage her outdoor care The few basics to be written down on a note and communicated on/before the child’s first school day:
1. Shower: No hot/ warm water to shower. Use the bath oil/lotion that you bring to school.
2. Moisturizing: Immediately (not more than 3 minutes) after shower, using the moisturizer you’ve brought to school. Make it clear it can be applied generously, and a rough guide on how many days one bottle can last.
3. Scratching: If the child is scratching incessantly, offer the teacher some tips on ways you’ve successfully distracted or relieved the itch. Either bringing a favorite toy or in my case, I bring a daily small bottle of chlorhexidine for cleaning away staph bacteria that is prevalent on eczema skin.
Expect scratches during the transition period
Your child is undergoing a major transition from being under your care at home to being taken care of by a stranger in an environment with other children. Many children with eczema respond to stress or situations of discomfort by scratching; sometimes it even becomes a nervous habit.
It is also an adjustment period for the teacher–suddenly, she has to be more like you, keeping an eye out for a scratching child! Don’t complain or chide the school for scratches during this transition period; treat the eczema rash vigilantly at home and reassure your child that school is fun and safe. Remember, our children can catch on to our stress and discomfort!
Volunteer when there’s a call for it, even if it’s not your calling
While volunteering is more of an act than a communication technique, the act itself shows you care for the school and want to help. It’s also a great time to bond with the teachers and helpers who love your child!
Show appreciation at every opportunity
I’m shameless in this; for holidays such as the new year, Christmas, and Teacher’s Day, I would take the chance to prepare a gift, cookies, or cards with wrapping paper decorated by my child. It cost little but says much. Plus, who doesn’t love a chocolate?
This post is about communicating with caregivers, and in my case, it’s mainly the preschool. However, if you’re really uncomfortable with the preschool after the trial period, don’t blame your lack of communication skills but trust your instinct that this school may really not be the right one to care for your child’s eczema.
Mei is passionate about helping families with eczema children because her baby girl has severe eczema. She runs a blog for parents with eczema children at EczemaBlues.com. She has interviewed dermatologists, nutritionists and parenting experts (and even a celebrity hairstylist!) on her blog, making it a comprehensive resource for practical and holistic care for the child. Mei is also the illustrator of a children book A to Z Animals are not Scratching!, a book she created for children with eczema.
Mei is also active in helping her local community through an eczema support group which is the first of its kind in Singapore. She has also initiated the first eczema assistance fund in Singapore. This fund subsidizes treatment for low income eczema patients. You can chat with her on twitter, at @MarcieMom